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BOOKS ABOUT WORLD MUMMIES

Modern Mummies: The Preservation of the Human Body in the Twentieth Century

by Christine Quigley

 

One of the most fascinating mummy books published in recent memory, Modern Mummies: The Preservation of the Human Body in the Twentieth Century takes readers on a trip  through the strange, weird, and, yes, sometimes gruesome world of recent mummies. Not intended for children, the text is dense (it looks more like a scholarly journal) and the photos are a bit too medical. But older teens and adults interested in the subject will truly be amazed.

Making and displaying modern mummies is a subject rarely discussed, but Quigley tackles it head on. This is far from a "politically-correct" book, but that makes it all the more intriguing. Not only does the book provide "all the details," it prompts many profound questions about the purpose, nature, and impact of death in our death-defying society.

 

Table of Contents

 

Chapter 1: What has been, may be, can be, and will be done (The History, Law, and Science of Modern Mummification). Reviews the law and the history of U.S.  mummification, along with the science of modern preservation (including natural preservation, desiccation, cooling and freezing, water preservation, tanning, and adipocere formation). A brief, but clear and thorough presentation.

Chapter 2: Lying in state (Icons, idols, and eccentrics). Includes detailed information about the mummies of Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Eva Peron, Rosalia Lombardo, and Samuel P. Dinsmoor. Also included are Ho Chi Minh, Kim II Sung, and Enrico Caruso, among others. You haven't heard of them all, but Quigley gives sufficient information to satisfy the curious, plus enough details to encourage an interesting family vacation (Lucas, Kansas anyone?)

Chapter 3: Occupational hazards (Outlaws, victims, and local folks). Includes detailed information on Elmer McCurdy, Hazel Farris, John Wilkes Booth, among others--along with a host of other lesser known mummies. The McCurdy tale is perhaps best known (the fun-house mummy found while shooting a Six Million Dollar Man episode back in 1976), but the John Wilkes Booth is the most fascinating (great photos, too). Quigley has done her homework here.

Chapter 4: Learning about life and death (Teaching aids, test subjects, museum holdings, and teratology specimens). Discusses unusual mummies used for teaching (including cadavers, plastinated mummies, and computerized mummies); a few mummification experiments done on human cadavers (including Bob Brier's Egyptian mummymaking); some unusual (and controversial) museum mummy collections (shrunken heads, for example); and teratology collections, both in museums and sideshows.

Chapter 5: Buying immortality (Emulations, innovations, and applications). This chapter covers the gamut of possibilities for anyone who has ever considered becoming a mummy upon death. Some of the possibilities are real and expensive (contact one organization in Salt Lake City); others are just real (smoked bodies from New Guinea).

Chapter 6: Accidents of nature (Adventurers, explorers, and a spelunker). Covers mummies found in glaciers, on mountain tops (climbing accidents), in the Arctic and Antarctic, and in a cave (Floyd Collins of Crystal Cave).

Chapter 7: Acts of faith (Servants, patriarchs, and believers). Discusses the mummies of many religious figures, including the Venerable Jacinta Marto and Father Solanus Casey. A brief mention is also made of the unintentional mummification of Civil Rights' leader Medgar Evers (whose body was exhumed some 20 years after he died).

Chapter 8: Mummy miscellany (Eviction, collection, and neglect). Discusses how some (natural) mummies are discovered when their bodies are removed ("evicted") from their burial site (such as Guanajuato, Mexico) as well as more grisly types of mummymaking (including the 1971 Andes plane crash recounted in the book and movie, Alive! ).

Conclusion, bibliography, index. A brief conclusion, an excellent bibliography.

 

 

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Modern Mummies 
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